Term 3 Reflection

While I am well into my third year as Principal of Woodleigh, I am still enjoying firsts. Traditionally ‘the quiet term’, this term has been the term where community engagement has sparked back into life.

A cornerstone in Woodleigh education, this was the first year since 2019 we could run Activities Week. I was privileged to join students at both Mt Hotham and Dinner Plain snow trips. As skiing is a passion of mine, this was a perfect way to connect with students and staff while enjoying the beautiful Victorian Alps.

During my career, I have taken students skiing and on snow trips many times, both in Australia and abroad. However, I have never enjoyed the company of our students as much as I did this year. There was an overwhelming sense of gratitude and appreciation shown by all. I have never felt so welcomed by students as I was during this trip. It was a great chance to see and appreciate how insightful, positive and respectful Woodleigh students are. In three decades of teaching, this stands them apart from students I have worked with before. In particular, I must thank the cross-country students, who patiently worked with their flagging Principal as he struggled to keep up on the trails and complained incessantly about blisters and a sore ankle. Quite pathetic really.

Activities Week is a different way of learning. Yes, it’s time away from the classroom, but it's not a holiday. It’s about giving young people the opportunity to immerse themselves in an activity and a group of people beyond their comfort zone, and to have the courage to have a go. This is a big thing for a teenager, where they are worried about making a fool of themselves in front of their peers. Kids learn teamwork, communication and organisational skills, confidence, and although the focus is on the activity – whether it be ceramics, surfing, or golf – they come away learning more about themselves in a context beyond home and school. It’s a powerful form of personal development.

It's also been a term where our Junior Campus students have attended camps in areas as diverse as Sovereign Hill, Alexandra, and the Northern Territory. Yes, camp is fun, but it can also be a powerful opportunity for growth. Our Year 6 Penbank students, for example, travelled great distances to live, learn and thrive within the Beswick Wugularr community, creating lifelong friendships and developing a deep understanding of aboriginal culture. These students will be the change agents of the future; to have this understanding of first nations perspectives from such a young age fills me with hope about our shared future.

You don’t have to travel as far as the Northern Territory for camp to be a growth opportunity. When we travel, it’s the change of context that allows students time to reflect on who they are, where they come from, and who they are striving to be. The journey here is an inward one, and it can’t be underrated as they find their way in the world, at Woodleigh and beyond.

Another incredible first this term was to finally attend school productions at Senior Campus. Almost Maine and The Little Mermaid were outstanding student-powered productions that left me in awe at the depth of talent we have at Woodleigh. I loved being immersed in a live theatre environment, and was completely drawn into the subtleties and nuances of the plot and the acting. Our dedicated drama and music staff allow our students to be their absolute best through coaching, mentoring and encouragement. Several Board members commented on the fact that Woodleigh kids do everything, in keeping with our philosophy as a school. Woodleigh kids do do everything, but that’s because our school fosters a culture where everyone is given every opportunity to have a go, play a part, take a risk.

None of this would be possible without our incredibly dedicated staff – teaching and non-teaching – but also without you, Woodleigh families. The school can only be as ambitious as the people that make up our community. Your engagement as parents is the key third ingredient in your children’s education and development as young people. As we shuck the shell of Covid, I would encourage you – like our students – to take up as many opportunities to engage with the school as you can. Whether it be through attending PFG events such as Fathers’ Day Breakfasts, Rock Quiz or Christmas in July; through our regular Parent Education Program (PEP) Talks, or through attending evenings such as our strategic plan launch, we encourage you to immerse yourself in our school community. These events are a chance to meet other parents, talk to staff, connect, unpack and reflect on your child’s journey at Woodleigh.

To those who did manage to attend our Learning to thrive Strategic Plan launches at Minimbah, Penbank and Senior Campus, thank you. The Board and I are incredibly proud of our plan, and very excited about the future direction of our school and the possibilities this will bring. I am grateful for the feedback we received and, most importantly, the encouragement to continue our journey and maintain a focus on our purpose as a school:

"“The purposeful development of creative, compassionate, resilient and skilful young people who will thrive in an ever-changing world.”"

Have a great holiday and enjoy the spring sunshine.